Preview and Free Betting Tips for the Denman Chase – The Grade 2 Denman Chase takes centre stage at Newbury on what will be extremely testing ground. Only five runners line up to contest this 3m slog in a race which has produced numerous Gold Cup winners such as Long Run, Denman, and Kauto Star. This year’s renewal may lack horses of that calibre but it promises to be an entertaining race nonetheless. Here is my best bet.
The obvious place to start is with the recent record in the race of Paul Nicholls. Since 2007 the Ditcheat trainer has claimed this prize five times and will be hoping that Al Ferof (2/1 – Bet Butler) can follow in the footsteps of his stablemate, and last year’s winner, Silviniaco Conti. Two starts this season have seen Al Ferof claim a facile victory at Ascot in the Amlin Chase before going on to finish third in the King George VI Chase at Kempton, some 14 lengths behind his aforementioned stablemate. This horse will be trying 3m for only the second time in his career in an attempt to determine whether he is a Gold Cup horse or whether he should instead go for the Ryanair Chase at the Festival in March. He enters the fray rated 12lbs clear of his nearest rivals and looks on paper to have a fantastic chance. A word of caution however, Paul Nicholls has gone on record earlier in the week stating that he would consider withdrawing this horse if conditions became too testing. Despite finishing in the places for the King George there remains a question mark over this horses’ stamina and in truly testing ground he could well be vulnerable. Certainly, there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of pace on offer and that should certainly help this son of Dom Alco, however he does face opposition who are dour stayers. In terms of a betting proposition, I tend not to back short priced favourites on this type of ground, especially not when they are yet to fully prove themselves over the trip. He may well have far too much class for his rivals and his jumping could well win him the race but at the prices he doesn’t appeal.
Of those who certainly will appreciate the ground, the pair of Harry Topper and Katenko look to have strong claims. Starting with HARRY TOPPER (3/1 Betfred), this Kim Bailey trained horse looked a likely star of the future when beating Rocky Creek and Benefficient in his first season over fences. Unfortunately he suffered a set-back and had his campaign curtailed. He returned this season in the Charlie Hall Chase where his dogged attitude saw him claim victory, beating the likes of Long Run. He failed to follow that performance up next time out at Sandown on ground that was far too firm for him and he finished last of three after a round of poor jumping. His latest start came at Cheltenham in the Argento Chase run on heavy ground and he finished a creditable third after looking severely outpaced coming into the home turn. The major issue with this horse is his tendency to make regular jumping errors which curtail his speed and cause him to loose precious lengths. Despite this, he looks the type of horse to stay all day and, at a flat track such as Newbury (where he has course and distance winning form) where the fences are far easier than at Cheltenham, his stamina could well come to the fore in very testing conditions. The small field will play to his strengths as the steady pace should give him every opportunity to meet his fences accurately. The cheek pieces are reapplied and if they help the horse focus better then I believe he has a strong chance of victory.
The second horse is Katenko (11/4 Stan James). Another who looked to have a bright future before a bout of colic hindered his charge to the Gold Cup last year, he has so far managed three runs this season. On his seasonal reappearance at this course he fell and then finished some 40 lengths behind the winner next time out at Aintree. His last start came at Haydock on heavy ground where he looked to be regaining some of his form of old and he finished a close fourth staying on to the line as others floundered in the conditions. This horse represents the stable of Venetia Williams who is in rampant form of late and who’s horses have the reputation of performing far better when faced with truly testing ground. Receiving weight from three of his rivals will be a big advantage and if he fully returns to his best then he is another likely to have every chance in the final few furlongs. However, I do have reservations about this horse. Since returning from his setback his jumping has looked sketchy at best and his only visit to the course has seen him suffer a confidence denting fall. With this in mind, and at the prices, I think he’s best watched for another day.
On bottom weight, receiving 10lbs from the majority of his rivals, we have Walkon (10/1 Betfred). This horse had strong form last season, finishing second in both the Paddy Power Gold Cup and the Topham Chase. Only one start this season saw him unseat Robert Thornton in the Old Roan Chase. It is difficult to evaluate his chances as he’s not been seen since October and could well need the run.
The field is completed by the Gary Moore trained, Vino Griego (14/1 bet365). This horse was an impressive winner on his penultimate start this season at Sandown beating the useful Rolling Aces by 7 lengths. That victory came on good ground and so has the best of his form. Pulled up on heavy ground last time out in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock conditions will be against him tomorrow and he is justifiably the outsider of the five.
All in all, it’s a rather disappointing turnout for this Grade 2 event and undoubtedly we have the weather to thank for that. I hugely respect the record Paul Nicholls has in this race and the challenge that Al Ferof represents, yet with the conditions as they are I'm more than happy to take him on. Away from the favourite, for me the race is between two horses – Katenko and HARRY TOPPER. Both have failed to show their best this season and both have jumping issues that need to be addressed, yet I am still confident that conditions will bring out the best in them. Despite the fantastic form that Venetia Williams is currently in, Katenko has looked disappointing since he reappearance and after a serious bout of colic I question whether we will ever truly see him back to his best. With that in mind, Harry Topper gets my vote in the hope that the make-up of the race and the testing ground will prove ideal. The lack of pace in the race and the flat track (where he has course and distance winning form) should put less pressure on his jumping and his stamina reserves should come into play when others start to struggle.
HARRY TOPPER (WIN) (3/1 Betfred)
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